I don’t read a lot of dark erotic fantasy. I usually only read it on a strong recommendation. Last year I read Trust In Me by Skye Warren on a recommendation from author Carolyn Crane and I really enjoyed it. So, based on that, I was ready to try another Skye Warren book.
There was safety in bondage, that much I knew.
Uncomfortable doesn’t begin to describe my feelings about the beginning of this book. Unsettled, WTF, OH.NO.
Yet, I never once wanted to put this book down. As uncomfortable as I was with each page turn (in the beginning) I wanted to find out what was going to happen next.
Wanderlust is the story of Evie, who was raised by a very protective mother. After Evie’s 20th(?) birthday, she decides she’s ready to see the world despite her mother’s warnings about how dangerous the world is and so she sets out on her own on a road trip to Niagara Falls.
“You won’t last a second out there. Not one goddamn second, you hear me? You have no idea what kinds of things happen out there—”
“I do, Mama. Because you’ve told me every day that I can remember. Well, do you think nothing bad ever happens here? That I’m safe just because I’m trapped here? […]”
After only one day on the road, Evie discovers that her mother’s warnings were correct when she comes across a trucker at a truck stop. After she declines his offer to buy her dinner, Evie finds the trucker (Hunter) in her motel room. His intentions for her are clear to Evie. He is going to rape her.
“I don’t get off on hurting women. Not too bad anyway. If you have any bruises they’ll be small and covered up by your clothes. No one needs to know what happened here. It’s nobody’s business but ours.” He made it sound consensual. But that was what he was describing, wasn’t it? That I go along with this, that I would consent. Or else.
Evie decides to submit in hopes of eventual escape. But Hunter later drugs and kidnaps Evie, taking her on the road with him. During their journey, they begin to get to know one another and they form a unique relationship. The story is told from Evie’s perspective and through her eyes we follow her journey through fear, self-preservation, anger, forgiveness, and sympathy for her captor and more.
When I watch movies like this I am disturbed, but books are more intimate and therefore push me a little too close to my boundaries. In discussing this with a friend, I realized that it’s because books do a better job of placing me in the character’s head and I see the journey through her eyes. Being in Evies head made it easier to sympathize in some twisted way and that is what both frustrated and thrilled me about Wanderlust.
Hunter is a rapist and a kidnapper. I was appropriately appalled by him by chapter four and was prepared for him to be the bad guy throughout the book. But once on the road, Evie begins to see cracks in his armor and signs that Hunter may have a few shreds of decency to him. While the knowledge of what he has done to her is always at the forefront of her mind, she is able to look beyond and see more in Hunter. I wondered many times while reading the book if this was simply her nature, or if it was because she is so messed up with mommy issues and feeling unloved, that she is drawn to acts of mercy and kindness from Hunter, no matter how small. Either way, by 50% into the book I was convinced both Evie and Hunter were crazy! It’s sad, and disturbing and I was riveted.
I liked his aggression better than his twisted consideration. I wanted him to hurt me, not help me.
“It’s okay.” he said, his lips pressed against the crown of my head. “You’re so pretty when you cry.” I felt myself blush even as my stomach turned over. But I couldn’t hate myself for the small pleasure I took. There were so few pleasures in life, and even less in the back of this truck, but I could accept his compliments. I could accept his pleasure too. There were some men you didn’t say no to. I wriggled my body experimentally. I told myself it was only to test my limits, but maybe there was a part of me that wanted to seduce him. It was sick, but I wanted him to touch me more, to hold me tighter. I wanted the intimacy from last night in the absence of any true connections in the whole wide world.
As the story progresses Hunter becomes more than Evie’s captor. She learns his history and he becomes someone she cares for. Depending on how you look at her situation, she either understands Hunter, or she makes excuses for him. I was so conflicted because I wanted to hate Hunter, but through Evie’s eyes, I didn’t always dislike him. My feelings for both of them were all over the place and by the time I was done reading I was actually tired. I enjoyed the psychological twistiness of this story and the author’s ability to write it in such a way that made me feel so torn in the way I felt about the characters.
I’m not sure I know how to discuss the ending without spoiling. My rational, real-life self was frustrated as hell with the ending. While it was in-line with the characters and the story, I wanted to yell, “NO!! This cannot happen!!”. But my romance-reading self was sad, and then a little happy. I know it’s just a story, but I was invested in these characters and I cared about what happened to them and what would happen for them in the future. I just didn’t see a healthy future for either Evie or Hunter, yet somehow I wanted it.
I love a book that makes me want to talk about it with my friends and makes me think about it well after I’ve finished it and moved on to other reads. Wanderlust is not a traditional romance, or an example of healthy relationships, but it is a riveting story, one I couldn’t put down.
What was happening to me? This needy girl, desperate to please with sex and obedience—that wasn’t me. I wanted freedom, but freedom wasn’t worth much if I let other people take it away with a snap of their fingers, with a passive-aggressive threat or a pill dropped into a soda. I had escaped once before, from my mother’s house, and I would do it again.